Become a Private Detective

By: U.S. News University Connection

Become a Private Detective

While the hours are long and job duties can be complicated, a career as a private detective can be a good choice for those who want to work in law enforcement because of the projected job growth and decent salary.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private investigator jobs are projected to grow 11% between 2012 and 2022. And in May 2012, the BLS reported, the median salary for detectives was $45,740.

That means 50% of the detectives in the country made more than that, with the top 10% making more than $79,000.

What They Do

Private detectives have many responsibilities, such as working to find missing persons, conducting background checks, investigating computer crimes, and collecting evidence. They also perform surveillance, interview people and testify in court. Investigators work for individuals, businesses, or attorneys.

Detectives complete their work in a variety of places, and their location largely depends on each particular case. For some cases, detectives spend the most time working in their offices to compile evidence, while for other cases they log more hours in the field conducting interviews and surveillance.

Normally, investigators do not have a regular work schedule. This is not anything like a nine-to-five office job.

How to Become a Private Detective

Most of the time, you need to have several years of experience in law enforcement before becoming a private detective. Investigators need to have at least a GED or high school diploma, and some jobs require 2- or 4-year degrees. While job requirements greatly depend on the company, corporate agencies typically require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Also, most states require that private detectives obtain licensure before starting work.

Qualities Needed

Before becoming a detective, you want to ensure that you have the necessary qualities. Private investigators need to have excellent communication skills, knowing when to listen and when to ask questions. Also, detectives should have decision-making skills, because they are often forced to think on their feet and make fast decisions. Being inquisitive is another needed quality, because investigators must always be on the quest for truth and be willing to ask a variety of questions. Detectives should also be patient since they have to wait for specific events to occur when conducting surveillance.

Additionally, resourcefulness is a key ingredient of success for investigators, because they have to solve a case based upon whatever evidence and leads they may have, no matter how difficult it is.

Where to Work

The states with the highest employment include New York, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas.

If you’re looking for the best-paying jobs, the states with the highest annual median salary include Washington, Texas, Alaska, Virginia, and Nebraska, where the average annual salaries range from $64,470 to $70,510.


How to Become a Private Detective or Investigator
Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2012